EXCLUSIVE: While the summer dealmaking has tapered off in the dog days of August, a big one went down yesterday. In a deal worth high-six against seven-figures, Walt Disney Pictures acquired a package to make a movie out of the bestselling book The Finest Hours, with Oscar-nominated The Fighter scribes Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson to write the story of a daring Coast Guard rescue off Cape Cod in 1952. The project was set up through Jim Whitaker’s Entertainment and he will produce with Dorothy Aufiero, who worked with the writers as the original producer of The Fighter.
Published in 2009 by Scribner, the Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias-authored book tells the story of a Coast Guard rescue undertaken after two oil tankers were torn in half by treacherous waves during a deadly nor’easter blizzard. There were four rescue efforts, including two undertaken by a handful of men on two old, wooden, motorized 36-foot lifeboats. The men understood they had no business fighting frozen gale winds and seas but went anyway in an attempt to rescue the 84 men who were floating on halves of the cracked and sinking oil tankers.
Whitaker, the former Imagine Entertainment exec who directed the 9/11 documentary Rebirth that Showtime airs on Sept. 11, set up the project under his first-look producing deal at Disney. There, he’s in post-production on the Peter Hedges-directed The Odd Life of Timothy Green and is developing the action thriller Unlimited with Fringe writer Brad Caleb Kane and Hexum with Children of Men‘s David Arata. Whitaker described the book as “a riveting story of courage, and the fact that it’s true makes it all the more compelling,” he said. “Its characters and themes epitomize the stories we gravitate towards and are eager to produce at Disney.”
The deal was brokered by Verve in tandem with Gotham Group’s Ellen Goldsmith Vein and Michael Prevett.